The Project VFW 614 ATD
At the EADS (former DaimlerChrysler Aerospace Airbus GmbH) factory at Bremen resides the VFW 614 with the serial number G15. It originally flew at AIR ALSACE for three years, however, when the VFW 614 program was stopped, it was taken back by the manufacturer. After many years of not being in service it was re-activated and made airworthy again at the factory airport Lemwerder.
In the beginning of 1997 the delivery flight to Bremen took place. Almost the complete electrical equipment was removed and installed again there. Additionally extensive modifications within the area of flight control were executed, the aircraft was equipped with an EFCS (Electronic Flight Control System). In summer the installation of the new systems into the aircraft with the markings D-ASAX were completed after the machine had already passed tests of the engines and had been rolling in early spring. The successful first flight of the ATD (Aerospace Technologies Demonstrator) took place on August 13th, 1999, and the beginning of the test flight program was in fall the same year.
Here is a list of the modifications:
- Removement of the control sticks and all other mechanical control items (ropes, bars etc.) except the trim and the emergency systems for the landing gear.
- Installation of sidesticks and hydraulical as well as for the first time electromechanical drives for the control of the control surfaces (aileron, elevator, rudder, spoiler).
- Installation of extensive measuring instruments for the measurement of accelerations, temperatures, pressures etc.
- Installation of mechanisms necessary for test flights of this kind, e.g. an emergency exit.
In the whole these modifications mean that the airplane receives a complete electronic flight control, as it already applies for example with the airbus models A320/319/321/330/340. But the DASA still develops further with this project. So the electromechanically propelled spoilers are no longer to be used only for braking after the landing, but also actively for flight control purposes.
In many details the new flight control system deviates from the ones which are already in use, it represents a substantial advancement. The so-called "Smart Actuators" belong to this advancement; they are smart control drives which control themselves as far as possible and only require the placing position to be provided by the central computer, which they try to reach automatically then (On the left side there is a picture of the new cockpit of the VFW 614 G15 ATD).
Besides other aims the research directed to the use of the new flight control system in the planned airbus A3XX. Up to then however still another long way would have to be mastered. First the ATD with its EFCS was to receive a traffic certification, but this has been stopped. The entire project ATD is considerably supported by the federal Ministry of Research. There are several companies involved beside the DASA, e.g. the electromechanical drives (EMAs) for the spoilers are supplied by Liebherr, BGT (Bodensee Gerätetechnik) supplies the PFCU (Primary Flight Control Unit).
I absolved an internship at the DASA from 6.10.97 until 20.2.98 and worked directly on the plane most of the time. Sometimes I worked independently at some smaller installation jobs. I also tried to help, as far as I was able to do so, whenever problems appeared which had to be solved by engineers. Since the development was almost finished most of those problems were problems which appeared while installing new parts. This kind of job was really quite interesting and demanded inventiveness and flexibility.
There is a nice Photography of the team at the VFW 614 ATD (fall 1997).